The field of disaster recovery and revitalization studies doesn’t exist yet. Even the term of “disaster recovery” itself is not defined clearly although “recovery or reconstruction from a disaster” has become a topic of conversation among us frequently. On the other hand, Japan has approximately 2,000 active fault lines running throughout its small land and as many as 108 active volcanoes standing by for the next phase. From ancient times, the Japanese Archipelago has been damaged by various natural disasters such as typhoons, tornadoes, heavy snowfalls, landslides, and tsunamis generated from the plate boundary between land and sea.
The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995, which claimed the lives of more than 6,436 people including disaster-related deaths, taught us that “urbanization is closely related to the evolution of disasters”, and the Mid Niigata Prefecture Earthquake in 2004 urged us to discuss the significance of using huge amounts of public funds in the reconstruction of increasingly depopulated villages. Disasters have added many sad words to our dictionary such as lonely deaths, double loans, people with disabilities caused by a disaster, evacuees outside the prefecture, and disaster-related deaths. Meanwhile, we might have too easily accepted the idea that “nature cannot be controlled” for a long time. Still, there are support systems for the disaster victims, although a few, that were taken shape through our forerunners’ wisdom and efforts. Those systems include the Act on Earthquake Insurance enacted after learning lessons from the 1964 Niigata earthquake, the Act on Provision of Disaster Condolence Grant established over the sorrow of the 1967 Uetsu flood disaster, and the Act Concerning Support for Reconstructing Livelihoods of Disaster Victims realized from the crying need of sufferers from the 1995 Kobe earthquake.
In preparation for massive earthquakes like the Tokyo Inland Earthquake and the Nankai Trough Mega Earthquake, we must share the experiences of the disaster-stricken areas, institutionalize the lessons learned from those areas, and begin a process of reviewing our social framework. This is, we believe, “our responsibility as the disaster-affected area” taken over from our friends in Kobe. However, it can’t be that easy to rebuild devastated cities, villages, and lives of the people. In order to recover and revitalize disaster-hit areas and their victims, we need to address the task from various viewpoints such as governance, movements, values, and technologies to design more specific social systems.
In addition, we have to make full use of all the studies: law, public administration, monetary economics, public finance, local autonomy, town planning, sociology, history, insurance science, medicine, nursing, architecture etc. Needless to say, we cannot move forward without cooperation of NPOs, NGOs, the media, consultants, and those who work hard in the field of public services. As an academic society striving to establish the field of disaster recovery and revitalization studies, we do not just focus on research, but are committed to joining hands with people who are working on recovery and revitalization of the disaster-hit areas, disseminating the message of the sites nationwide, and passing on it to the next generation, with the aim of creating a society where everyone can live at ease. We hope you will share your knowledge and lend your support for our activities.
Founders, the Japan Society for Disaster Recovery and Revitalization
(written in 2007)